June 15, 2021

Making History Through a Momentous Discovery

When Fulbright Scholarship alumnus Zahi Hawass and his team of archaeologists began excavating in Luxor, Egypt in  2020, they were hoping to find the mortuary temple of King Tutankhamun - or King Tut, as the ancient Egyptian pharaoh is known. But when they came across mud brick formations within weeks of beginning their dig, they realized they had    stumbled upon something far greater.

The mud brick formations the team discovered eventually unveiled to them a large, well-preserved city that was soon  found to be home to a civilization nearly 3,500 years old.

“This is really a large city that was lost...the inscription that was found inside here says that this city was called ‘The  dazzling Aten’,” said Zahi, who led the team’s excavation on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor.

Thanks to inscriptions on wine vessels and mud bricks marked with the seal of a pharaonic cartouche, Zahi was able to  date the excavation site to Amenhotep III of the 18th dynasty, whose reign is considered a golden era for ancient Egypt.  This pharaoh, who was in power from around 1386 to 1353 BC, was also the grandfather of Tut, the famed boy king.

Zahi, the former Minister of Antiquities in Egypt, was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1983 to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a Master of Arts degree in Egyptology and Syro-Palestinian Archaeology.

Now, as the director of ongoing excavations at Giza, Saqqara, and the Valley of the Kings, Zahi works as a guest lecturer in archaeology and a writer for various articles and newspapers. Chronicling the recent excavations throughout the region, Zahi hopes to draw in tourism in Egypt by highlighting the country’s archaeological discoveries.

Within the newly unveiled city, Zahi’s team also identified several neighborhoods that housed residential and administrative areas, as well as a large bakery, a workshop used to produce bricks and jewelry, and a cemetery. Human remains in the city were uncovered as well – further proving that life in the small city existed nearly four centuries ago.

When asked about his most recent excavation in Luxor, Zahi reflected that this finding could be considered “the most important discovery” since King Tut’s tomb was unearthed in 1922. As excavations continue, he said, he hopes to discover whether or not the city was repopulated once Tut re-established Thebes as the capital.

“The mission expects to uncover untouched tombs filled with treasures,” said Zahi. “Only further excavations of the area will reveal what truly happened 3,500 years ago.”

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